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Johanna Bolander, 40, is originally from Sweden and studied engineering in biotechnology at Lund University, graduating with a master's degree in 2011. For her PhD in the field of biomedical sciences, she moved to the University of Leuven, Belgium. The topic of her dissertation was the development of cell-based therapies for complex bone fractures that typically heal poorly or not at all. In 2017, she received a postdoctoral travel fellowship to perform research related to her continuous work at  MERLN Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine, Maastricht, The Netherlands. In 2018, she moved to the United States, to the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina. There, she researched the mechanisms of fibrosis, which occurs particularly when cartilage injuries fail to heal and eventually lead to osteoarthritis. Based on this, she developed a cell therapy that – when injected into the joint - positively influences the immune system by causing the inflammation to subside and the damaged cartilage to regenerate.

The innovative therapy was effective in the clinic, but Johanna Bolander is not yet satisfied. "Cell therapies are challenging to produce and therefore limited in terms of availability, and comes to a high cost. My research goal is to improve our understanding regarding the underlying cause for failed tissue regeneration, and then translate those findings to enable earlier detection, treatment and prevention”.

At the BIH, Johanna Bolander wants to develop in vitro models using organoids that simulate the human system. They should help to understand why the healing of musculoskeletal tissues fails in some cases. "We want to investigate at the level of individual cells what is going wrong. With the in vitro models, we can pursue in detail what happens when you change nutrients or the stress level, for example, in the individual cell as well as in its environment. In this way, we hope to better understand the processes in the body as a whole and find ways to help as many people as possible with simple means."

Johanna Bolander and her research group are based in the Lucas-Cranach-Haus of the BIH Center for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT) at the Virchow Klinikum campus of Charité. For the next two years, she will commute between Berlin and Leuven, where she leads a research group on simulated human organs and tissues at IMEC, a leading nanotechnology research institute. She is looking forward to Berlin: "Professionally, the environment at BIH and especially at BCRT offers me excellent opportunities for collaboration”. Johanna immediately liked Berlin when she visited the city the first time in 2014, “it is vibrant, inspiring and exciting!"